Friday Fitness: Change What You Think You Know About Kids’ Health

Bear in mind as you read that I go back and forth between our health behaviors as parents, and kids’ health practices because I feel they are synonymous.  Our children mirror our behaviors and attitudes, and how we treat our children is often a reflection of how to feel about ourselves.

1.  Fitness is a conscious choice.

Not really a new idea for adults, but I recently read an article that said we need to stop telling children to exercise because “exercise” is a buzz word that makes it sound like a chore.  We need to soften our approach and call it “activity” because it should be a part of our daily…activity.  I get the importance of the small steps, and trading out bad habits for good ones.  But, does candy-coating exercise really lead to a life of fitness and vitality?  And, are “activities” really getting our kids off the couch and away from their screens?  Even if they are, are they enough to sustain a lifelong commitment to fitness?  We all understand that to be truly fit and to maintain our health takes work – even hard work.  It IS a chore, and a choice we have to make with great effort sometimes.  So, let’s teach our kids the value of a good workout, which include stress-relief and self-confidence, that they might put down their remotes/phones/keyboards, and start doing something every day that makes them sweat.  That is how to be fit, and that is what we should expect from ourselves and our kids. Our bodies are a gift, and it is our stewardship to care for them.
I recently had this conversation with an accomplished pianist – how success in life takes work.  He told me that people hear him play and lament how they wish they could just sit down and play beautifully like that.  He said, “me too!”  This accomplishment didn’t just happen overnight.  It took work, practice, time, patience, and consistency.  There is value in hard work, and accomplishing difficult tasks.  Self-efficacy, physiological balance, and self-confidence are big rewards for finishing a job well done (Annesi, 2010).  Check out this link for ideas on how to set goals to achieve fitness.

2.  Food is not what makes us fat.

Where do our kids hear that eating will make them fat?  Oh, right…EVERYWHERE!  Just watch any TV show directed at attracting a teen/tween audience (Lawrie, 2006).  The fat kid is always the one eating or thinking about food!  This food-to-fat association is what leads to too-restrictive eating even in very young children (Evans, 2013).  While is it true that more calories consumed than expended causes weight gain, it is not the only culprit.  All of us know someone who can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain weight.

a) The quality of the calorie makes a difference.  For example, simple carbohydrates turn into sugar which can turn in to fat if we don’t expend it.  Meanwhile, complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, bind with cholesterol, and lend to the health of our digestive tract.  One gram of either equals four calories.

b) Imbalances in the body cause weight gain.  For example, hyperthyroidism, and other hormone imbalances, sleep deprivation, candida (supposedly), water retention, etc.  There are many reasons why our bodies gain weight and retain fat, including stress (especially when we tend to eat more when stressed).

c) Dieting (believe it or not).  This is another form of imbalance.  When you diet/deprive yourself, your body thinks there is a famine and you are starving yourself.  SO when you give up, or try to get back to normal eating habits, you gain all the weight back – plus some more.  Your body is shoring up for the next drought.  This is where the term “yo-yo dieting” comes from.

d) Heredity.  Our genes can sure make our lives more difficult if we are aiming to lose weight.  We all know someone who has to work very hard, and watch everything they eat or they will gain weight no matter what.  It is our lot in life.

e) Inactivity.  Eat perfectly but it will catch up to you if you don’t exercise.

Young children that excessively restrict their diets are likely to have an eating disorder as they grow up (Goodrick, 1999).  Kids do not need to hear that eating will make them fat.  Their bodies are ever changing and growing.  They need plenty of nourishment and a balanced diet to grow well.  When we try to dictate everything our kids eat, they stress about pleasing us, or rebel against us.  They lose their eating self-efficacy.  Junk food (what I like to call “fun food”) is not the enemy when eaten in moderation.  Some occasional emotional eating is normal.  The problem is that we indulge ourselves without thought, without limit, and usually when we are distracted.  Do allow some indulgence within reason, while being cognitively aware of what you are eating.  Not only so you can enjoy it, but so you also know when it is time to stop.  Change one bad habit and you’ll be better off.  Teach children about healthier options, balancing their portions, and moderating their own consumption of fun foods.  We need to teach our kids how to make smarter choices without implying they will get fat, and empower them to know the difference between healthful choices, and foods that need to be eaten in moderation.  There are other issues that come from eating poorly than just weight gain: fatigue, illness due to malnourishment, dental cavities, indigestion, constipation, hormone imbalance, insatiability and more eating because we are unsatisfied, and crave more, to name a few.  Give them these reasons, not, “stop eating that, you’ll get fat!”  This will only make children feel self-conscious, feeling preoccupied by their appearance, rather than the healthfulness of their food (more on this later).  We should be empowering kids, and ourselves with self-efficacy – meaning the power within ourselves to determine our own behavior (AbuSabha, 1997).

“The core determinants of [effective health practices] include knowledge of health risks and benefits of different health practices, perceived self-efficacy that one can exercise control over one’s health habits, outcome expectations about the expected costs and benefits for different health habits, the health goals people set for themselves and the concrete plans and strategies for realizing them, and the perceived facilitators and social and structural impediments to the changes they seek…Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties” (Bandura, A., 2004).

Note: the goal is internal health and vitality (fitness), not necessarily weight loss.  Sometimes, when weight loss is the primary goal, those “desired effects” do not manifest for a long time, so we give up.  Kids might not understand why they need to eat well or exercise, but it needs to be their choice.  Lovingly instructing them, and then being patient with them, will empower them to make their own choices which will facilitate “effective health practices.”

But remember…

3.  Getting fat is not the worst-case scenario.

In our culture, there is a prevailing lie that fatness equals laziness, no self-discipline, low intelligence, ugliness (Urquhart, 2011).  Thinness is just the opposite.  Imagine what we put ourselves through when we gain weight, even as a natural process of aging.  We subconsciously tell ourselves we are not worthy of love, not even from ourselves.  So, we put ourselves through torture to fit into some ideal that, in reality, doesn’t exist.  The average BMI is 24 while the ideal is 18 (Urquhart, 2011).  This is virtually unattainable without going to unhealthy extremes.  Yes, obesity is linked to chronic illness, and leads to lower life satisfaction for many.  But is it the worst thing our children could endure?  The National Institute of Mental Health has an extensive list of symptoms of eating disorders that sound a lot more severe and immediate than getting a little fat.
I’m not saying we should just let our kids (or ourselves) get fat.  But, they do not need the pressure of worrying themselves about whether they will gain or lose anyone’s approval by how they look.  “Dietary restraint mediates the relationship between thin-ideal internalization and disordered eating attitudes, even in the absence of body dissatisfaction , due to the wish to attain a socially desirable figure” (Evans, 2013).  This pressure may backfire and lead to weight gain in itself.  Too-restrictive dieting leads to eating disorders, also in part because we stop being able to listen to our bodies (Johnson, 2005).  We stop knowing when we are hungry AND when we are full, which leads to binge eating.  “Although disordered eating is usually associated with underweight in popular media, it is more common in overweight individuals.  Overweight females report a greater fear of binging, preoccupation with weight, and use of unhealthy weight control behaviors than do non-overweight females (Urquhart, 2011).  Diets are destructive.  We need to relearn how to listen to our bodies and stop stressing too much about appearance.  Health works its way from the inside out.

The food relationship from Ellyn Satter‘s book “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” is, we choose what and when to eat, and children choose if, and how much.  The idea is to avoid a power struggle, and possibly to provide options – two kinds of vegetables at dinner so they can choose.  Allow kids at least three exposures to food before they can officially rule it out.  I love that there is no longer a food guide pyramid.  It was harder to understand what portions are realistic.  The plate is a better guide.  We can easily divide our plates in half, fill one side with fruits and/or vegetables, and the other half with whole grains and lean meats.  Wegmans calls it “half-plate healthy“.

I realize that there is a lot (A LOT) about our kids that is out of our control.  We cannot make our kids’ choices and we can’t control their environment or how they think.  There are some factors that need to be considered and balanced, like our parenting styles, and our kids’ dispositions.

However, we can set a good example for our kids.   We start by having a healthy attitude about our own bodies, and about food.  We show our kids how to eat a balanced diet and having an active lifestyle by doing it ourselves.  We support good behaviors with positive reinforcement.  We also teach them by our own words and actions how to value their bodies by not engaging in fat talk (about ourselves or anyone else), but loving our bodies no matter how they look.  Our children will echo our words and attitudes for better or for worse. (P.S. that fat talk article is awesome!)

“The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others with curly hair want it straight. Occasionally some ladies, believing that ‘gentlemen prefer blonds,’ become ‘decided blonds.’
“Your body, whatever its natural gifts, is a magnificent creation of God.  It is a tabernacle of flesh—a temple for your spirit.  A study of your body attests to its divine design…How should these truths influence our personal behavior? We should gratefully acknowledge God as our Creator” (Elder Russel M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, We are Children of God, Conference Address, October 1998).

Here’s a great illustration of healthy habits. I love the Berenstain Bears. My only critique of this story is the inherent assumption that junk food = lazy.  Otherwise, I love it.

(Images courtesy of kidshealth.org)

Sources:
-AbuSabha R., & Achterberg, C. (1997). Review of self-efficacy and locus of control for nutrition- and health-related behavior. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association, 97(10), 1122-1132.
-Annesi, J., & Gorjala, S. (2010). Relations of self-regulation and self-efficacy for exercise and eating and BMI change: A field investigation. Biopsychosocial Medicine, 410. doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-10
-Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior: The Official Publication Of The Society For Public Health Education, 31(2), 143-164.
-Evans, E., Tovée, M., Boothroyd, L., & Drewett, R. (2013). Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes in 7- to 11-year-old girls: Testing a sociocultural model. Body Image, 10(1), 8-15. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.10.001
-Goodrick, G., Pendleton, V., Kimball, K., Carlos Poston, W., Reeves, R., & Foreyt, J. (1999). Binge eating severity, self-concept, dieting self-efficacy and social support during treatment of binge eating disorder. The International Journal Of Eating Disorders, 26(3), 295-300.
-Johnson, F., & Wardle, J. (2005). Dietary restraint, body dissatisfaction, and psychological distress: a prospective analysis. Journal Of Abnormal Psychology, 114(1), 119-125.
-Lawrie, Z., Sullivan, E., Davies, P., & Hill, R. (2006). Media influence on the body image of children and adolescents. Eating Disorders, 14(5), 355-364.
-Urquhart, C., & Mihalynuk, T. (2011). Disordered eating in women: implications for the obesity pandemic. Canadian Journal Of Dietetic Practice And Research: A Publication Of Dietitians Of Canada = Revue Canadienne De La Pratique Et De La Recherche En Diététique: Une Publication Des Diététistes Du Canada, 72(1), e115-e125.
And so many more…Due to copyrights, I cannot share these articles over mass media, but I do believe I may be able to share them with individuals if you are interested in seeing them in print.

Wednesday Wellness: Body Image and the “In Between” Stage

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“It looks like dough,” my sweet daughter observed about my belly fat while we snuggled in my bed this morning.  I don’t blame her.  It really does look like dough, especially when I’m kneading it in my hands like dough.  It isn’t the first time a child has paid me such a compliment.  I was once enlightened by my then six year old niece who looked up at me and said from her vantage point while pointing up at my chest in a figure eight motion, “aunt Jodi, you have big breasts.”  I’m sure it was easy to confuse them with mountains from her perspective (thank you, Shakira for that image.).

I was contemplating the weeks of training it will take to lose my dough belly, not really ready to dive in head first.  I feel like it is taking me longer to heal from this pregnancy, and exercising has left me a lot more sore than I remember getting after a workout.  It wouldn’t be so bad if my clothes actually fit, but buying a wardrobe for this stage would be like accepting it.

I have never been thin.  I probably will never be thin.  I honestly didn’t even know what it meant to exercise until I was almost 25.  Not even when I watched myself pack on fifty pounds on my mission.  I thought dieting would be the solution.  I know now that dieting is only half the solution, and 90% the problem if you’re not doing it right.  I have lost faith in diets, especially after studying their effects on self-efficacy and body image, never mind that they don’t work.  Never diet.  Ever.

This post is not about dieting.  It’s not even about exercising.  I plan to lose the weight, just like I did after my last pregnancy, with discipline and perseverance.  It feels good to sweat, and I can’t begin to describe the vigor of having a strong body, with energy and power to do things without straining myself!  That is why I do it.  I know I will never be thin, but being in shape just feels so right.

My body is a temple.  That is what we ought to know.  That is why we should fight for our health and cleanliness!  My body is a temple.  So why do I tell myself how much I hate it?  Why?

Even with all its flaws, my body is a temple.  It is perfect.  I am blessed to have this body with working limbs to lift by children, eyes that see (even if not perfectly), ears that hear (even after years of playing the drums and going to rock concerts), a nose that smells, and a mouth that tastes and chews amazing food (so excited about Thanksgiving tomorrow).

In this past General Conference, October 2013, Elder Nelson gave a stellar talk about how our choices shape our eternity.  He said this:

“My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body. Created by God as a gift to you, it is absolutely amazing! Think of your eyes that see, ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous things around you. Your brain lets you learn, think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly day and night, almost without your awareness.

“Your body protects itself. Pain comes as a warning that something is wrong and needs attention. Infectious illnesses strike from time to time, and when they do, antibodies are formed that increase your resistance to subsequent infection.

“Your body repairs itself. Cuts and bruises heal. Broken bones can become strong once again. I have cited but a tiny sample of the many amazing God-given qualities of your body” (Decisions for Eternity).

I am determined never to hint to my children that I have poor body image.  I want them to never associate their value, their worthiness, their purpose for love, with their appearance.  When I compliment them on their appearance, I tell them they look clean and smart, or strong and healthy!  I want them to value those traits above any message the world may send about how they should look.  They are perfect!  They have a blank slate.  I will never tell them they have to earn my love (period) by how they look.  Not directly, nor indirectly by how I treat them, how I treat myself, what I say about food, or other people who are overweight.  I tell them treats, and even fast food, are “fun foods” to eat in moderation, and that too much candy will rot their teeth and feed the germs that make them sick.  I try to teach them that nutritious foods help make their bodies healthy and strong, but so do exercise and sleep! I am constantly hugging them and telling them I love them, and I’m trying to hold my tongue when I get impatient with them.

I ought to do the same for myself.

Elder Nelson continues:

“With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit. And how you use your body affects your spirit. Some of the decisions that will determine your eternal destiny include:

•    How will you choose to care for and use your body?

•    What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?”

With our bodies being so crucial to God’s eternal plan, it is also little wonder that the adversary wants so badly to diminish its value!  Don’t listen to that voice.  The Spirit of the Lord will never tell you you are ugly or fat, though He may entice you to want to change in positive ways.  The Spirit will never belittle you for how you look, or make you feel insecure because you had an encounter with someone who made you feel self-conscious about your appearance (p.s. no one can make you feel anything).  Allow the Spirit to guide how you should feel about yourself, your talents and skills, and all that you contribute because of who you are.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself.

Wednesday Wellness: Commitment

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I have not done very well over the last few weeks. The good news is, I didn’t gain weight! Still, I’m committed to keep recording my diet and exercise! It is a part of my life now. I’ve got it down to the point where it really is simple to record everything! The smart phone app has a scanner to scan bar codes on foods, which is super easy. I have another app called “MapMyRun” that keeps track of my fitness when I go outside.
I know it’s not for everyone, but for me, I have no excuse but to keep it up. Knowing what I know about health, I would be a fool to do anything less than manage a healthy diet and fitness routine. It’s not easy, but I am going to be accountable to this stewardship over my body and I hope to be faithful in that responsibility.
So, despite my weakness over the last few weeks, I must press on! If I am diligent over the next ten weeks, I will reach my goal weight! Just 10 weeks! That is doable! I will finally know what it feels like to be within a healthy BMI. Crazy!

Friday Fitness: 15 Minute Circuit

Here is my 15 minute workout.  I got the first seven exercises from a fitness site and decided to include the rest to get a more rounded workout.  I do each exercise for 50 seconds and then rest 10 seconds in between.  I do this right at home, and doesn’t really require weights.  Yes, the last one is a shoulder press, but you can use cans or something like that.  I use this online stop watch: http://www.beach-fitness.com/tabata/Tabata%20Clock%20v3.15%20%28beach-fitness.com%29.swf.  Enjoy!

If you cannot see the images above, the exercises I use are the following (50 seconds each, 10 seconds rest):

Jump from squat
Pushups
Burpees
High Step
Lunges
Jump up
Sit ups
Tricep dips
Plank
Side plank (each side)
Squats
Mountain climbers
Supermans
Shoulder press w/dumbells

Click here to download reminder sheet

Monday Might: Recommitted (Goal-Setting)

Now that the semester is over I get to crack down and get recommitted to the things that have started to slip. It just takes a couple of days for me to lose track and then things start spiraling out of control. I guess that’s how it is with two toddlers. If I don’t pick up, or do the dishes for ONE day – just one day – all heck breaks loose.

I have to admit, I am sorely tempted to just take a nap.

No, I have got to recommit. If I don’t have a plan or goals, I just feel all scattered and clumsy. So, about every quarter I recheck my goals and realign them with what I hope to accomplish.

To recommit, I sit down with my list of the six dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, spiritual, and environmental (Insel, pg 3). I consider where I need to improve in each of these dimensions, what I can do to develop in these areas, and how to accomplish that. I think I’ll also consider how I’ve grown in these areas and what I feel good about.

Core Concepts in Health 11th ed. by Paul M. Insel & Walton T. Roth
Pg 3 (my own suggestions are in parentheses)
Physical
Emotional
Intellectual
Interpersonal
Spiritual
Environmental
Eating well
Optimism
Openness to new ideas
Communication skills
Capacity to love
Having abundant, clean natural resources
Exercising
Trust
Capacity to question
Capacity for intimacy
Compassion
Maintaining sustainable development
Avoiding harmful habits
Self-esteem
Ability to think critically
Ability to establish and maintain satisfying relationships
Altruism
Recycling whenever possible
Practicing safe sex
Self-acceptance
Motivation to master new skills
Ability to cultivate support system of friends and family
Joy
Reducing pollution and waste
Recognizing symptoms of disease
Self-confidence
Sense of humor
Fulfillment
(Clean and organized surroundings)
Getting regular checkups
Ability to understand and accept one’s feelings
Creativity
Caring for others
(Environment is free of clutter)
Avoiding injuries
Ability to share feelings well with others
Curiosity
Sense of meaning and purpose
(Home and auto maintenance)
(Self-efficacy)
Lifelong learning
Sense of belonging to something greater than oneself

For myself, I also add another dimension of health, which is the “Temporal” dimension. This includes my temporal needs which could be included under “Intellectual” or “Environmental” or even “Occupational” or “Financial” but none of those really quite sum it up. “Temporal” health includes financial health or balancing a budget; maintaining food storage and emergency preparation; estate planning and planning for death/potential disability (sounds morbid, but I don’t want to leave this out there for the state to deal with in the event that it happens); understanding my rights, the laws I am governed by, and knowing what my insurance covers; developing my earning potential, and career planning; job satisfaction; improving my generativity (what I contribute to my posterity); etc.

Some things apply to several dimensions.  For instance,  I believe that writing in my journal improves my health on several levels: emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even temporal.  It may even improve my physical health if I’m away from my computer or the television for a bit, and feel inspired to do something productive afterwards.  Doing my visiting teaching works on my emotional, interpersonal, intellectual, spiritual, and temporal well-being.

I have a binder with at least four of these dimensions on tabs.  I have some lined paper in the front of the binder where I record my thoughts or make lists involving the goals for each of the categories and place them under the appropriate tab.  I also add anything to the tabs that I obtain, like, for example, the food storage tips I get at church every week go under the “temporal” tab so I can refer back to them.  When I learn about new exercise programs that I like, I print them and put them under my “physical” tab. Pinterest also helps me organize my goals…even distant goals.

I found some great ideas for worthy goals at a site called “Pursuit of Excellence“.  WOW!!  What an awesome resource!!

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Setting goals and working toward those goals can strengthen your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by helping you develop patterns and qualities of discipleship in your life. Pursuit of Excellence can help you to follow the Savior’s example of “a more excellent way”  (1 Corinthians 12:31).
Begin by asking the Lord to help you determine what you will work on. Decide how you will evaluate and record your progress. Discover how the Spirit affirms your progress. You will find that your greatest reward will be an increase of the Spirit in your life. Your faith will grow, and your testimony will be strengthened.
The goals listed below are intended to help support and strengthen you in your responsibilities as a son or daughter of Heavenly Father and to help you establish righteous habits and patterns for a lifetime.

Need more ideas about goal-setting, check out a few links:

Pursuit of Excellence (AWESOME!!!):  http://www.lds.org/service/serving-in-the-church/relief-society/leader-resources/new-relief-society-sisters/pursuit-of-excellence?lang=eng
Fly Lady (Finally Love Yourself):  http://flylady.net/
Simplify 101:  http://www.simplify101.com/
Self-Reliance and Family Well-Being:   http://www.lds.org/family/family-well-being?lang=eng